Innovation SL

Established in 2017, Innovation SL Ltd (Innosl) is an Entrepreneurship Support Organisation (ESO) and an Innovation & Technology Management company. The founder is a Sierra-Leonean born Norwegian with 20 years in Entrepreneurship Ecosystem development.

We own the Freetown Pitch Night, Innovations Axis Ltd (an incubator/accelerator and co-working space) and are the Global Entrepreneurship Network affiliate in Sierra Leone.

Innosl was established for the purpose of impacting Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurship and Innovation  ecosystem, by identifying and implementing effective programs, initiatives, projects and policies that foster and support Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurs and Innovation ecosystem.

Our Mission is to enable Sierra Leone’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to source & develop impact start-ups and scale-ups, to contribute towards the development of ‘a better and more sustainable future’ for all Sierra Leoneans.

Our Vision is of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem where Sierra Leone’s largest companies, academic institutions, MDAs and development partners interact with ambitious entrepreneurs hungry for success; with talented individuals, graduates and alumni of entrepreneurial organisations providing a strong source of ‘cultural and intellectual capital’. All fuelled by highly networked and experienced mentoring and capital supported by our incubator and accelerator.

We believe Entrepreneurship to be a key source of economic diversification, job creation and business development. Hence, it is critical to attract the young and women to become entrepreneurs.

Our major focus is on building a vibrant Entrepreneurial Ecosystem that will support disruptive, high-growth and value-creating Start-Up entrepreneurs & SMEs in Sierra Leone. Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) are important drivers of growth in economies across Sub Saharan Africa, accounting for up to 90% of all businesses in these markets. 

As SMEs are critical to Africa’s development, so is the support needed to ensure the success of the entrepreneurs behind them. Entrepreneur Support Organisations (ESO) are critical to the success of the entrepreneurship sector, providing entrepreneurs with business training, access to markets, networks and mentors, financial and social capital, and in-kind support. They are key to unlocking the pipeline of early-stage innovation in Africa, and driving investment and job creation across the continent.

High growth and value creating entrepreneurs, will attract investment, leading to the creation of employment, generating economic growth and facilitating social inclusion.

With this focus, Innosl’s  fields of expertise are:

  • Finding and coaching entrepreneurs developing disruptive business models and solving important/meaningful problems while creating impact in society;
  • Developing digital solutions, contributing to a digital infrastructure to enable the development and growth of digital entrepreneurs;
  • Managing a co-working space and a combined Incubator and Accelerator (Innovations Axis);
  • Managing Freetown Pitch Night and running the Global Entrepreneurship Week SL, Future Agro Challenge and ‘Dare2Aspire’ – Women in Entrepreneurship; and
  • Partnering with other ecosystem actors in entrepreneurship development programs.

We believe entrepreneur support organisations (ESOs) are the key to unlocking pipeline and catalyzing early stage investment across the continent.; the entrepreneur support sector is critical to the future of sustainable economies in Africa “ Village Capital  Unlocking Pipeline

Ecosystem

From our establishment in 2017 our focus has been on developing value creating and high growth entrepreneurs as opposed to rent seeking entrepreneurs. Further, we have sought to deviate from the standard approach to nurturing innovators- through innovation competitions that focus on the top 3 winners out of 50 submissions. These top three will get cash prizes with little and sometimes no follow up.

We believe that  for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to play the crucial role in creating jobs and growing the Sierra Leonean economy, we need to develop value creating and high growth entrepreneurs. For this to happen, the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem must be in place and enabled.

This is why our approach has been based on developing components of the ecosystem;   and enabling other parts of the ecosystem that is suited to nurturing value creating and high growth potential startups and scale ups.

Incubator and Accelerator

In 2018 we began our incubation and acceleration program. The program is located at Kingtom  which is a space we have under a separate company- Innovations Axis. 

At the end of 2019, we have 12 start ups under incubation in various stages of the development. Already one of our start-ups under incubation, has generated revenues of 90 million leones. In 2020, this same start-up will generate a further 350million leones.

Five of our start ups are at the validation start phase and this process will continue for another six months in 2020. Validation remains one of the most part of our incubation program, where the focus is on an MVP that is going to address a tier 1 problem for a particular customer segment.

In 2019/20 our start-ups were made up as follows:

  • 50% students (each of these start-ups had at least two women as co-founders)
  • 40% women founders
  • 20 % non-students
  • The age group range from 22 years to 35 years old.

The Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) are the “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. InnoSL is committed to the SDGs.

We believe that the private sector has a role to play in meeting these goals. As an Entrepreneur Support Organisation, we will focus our incubation and acceleration programs on entrepreneurs that are developing solutions to meet these goals.

Our Strategic Focus & Goals

Track Record

Since 2001 InnoSL’s founder and MD has been developing start-ups and accelerating scale ups internationally. In Sierra Leone, since InnoSL’s founding in 2017, we have worked with, and supported, the growth of 25+ start-ups and SMEs and assisted other ecosystem players in doing the same. We started the first full service combined incubator and accelerator in Sierra Leone in 2018 which, since inception, has incubated and accelerated 16 start-ups, many of whom came through Freetown Pitch Night, a monthly pitch event we organise.

Through Freetown Pitch Night, more than 160 entrepreneurs (start-ups and post revenue) have pitched to an audience of investors, customers, possible partners, and development partners. As part of our model, to make our incubator and accelerator inclusive, we engage members of the Sierra Leonean diaspora to help mentor, invest and grow the companies we incubate/ accelerate. We work with a small but engaged network of successful Sierra Leoneans, such as Abu Kamara, co-founder and President of Grovara[1].

In 2018-2020, we had 16 start-ups under incubation and two SMEs under acceleration. By December 2019 one had generated revenues of SLL 90 million (USD 9.000) and is on target to generate a further SLL 350million (USD 35.000) in 2020/2021. Five others are at the Validation Start Phase, a process which will last for 6 months in 2020/21. Validation remains one of the most important part of our incubation program, with a focus on developing an MVP to address a Tier 1 problem for a particular identified customer segment.

Additionally, we have been engaged in an advisory capacity with approximately 33 SMES between 2017 and 2020.

In August 2020, as part of our strategy of developing the ecosystem, we developed and launched two MVP Crowdfunding platforms. We have seen that the absence of start-up capital (seed funding) in Sierra Leone is a major obstacle to innovative ideas moving from Problem Solution (Concept) phase to the Product Market Fit (Development of an MVP) phase. Further, the absence of growth capital for MSMES and SMES is also an obstacle to the expansion of promising businesses, businesses with viable market segments and demonstrable growth potential. 

 

[1] Grovara is the leading B2B Global Marketplace for Wellness Brands, connecting natural and organic brands with international retailers. The Grovara  platform streamlines the entire process from product discovery, order processing, to payments and fulfilment, all in a single marketplace.